Promoting Alternatives at the Medical College of Wisconsin
Last month thousands of people in the Milwaukee area read some disturbing news in their local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A front-page story reported that Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) is one of the few medical schools in the country that still uses live dog labs.
The newspaper coverage discussed PCRM’s ongoing campaign to end live animal labs in medical schools. In March, 52 dogs at MCW were used in a lab exercise on the circulatory system. The dogs were operated on while under anesthesia and then euthanized.
Most medical schools have abandoned the practice of using live animals in favor of more sophisticated technology. In fact, 105 of the 125 U.S. medical schools do not use live animals of any species in any of their medical training.
Besides the ethical concerns involved, animal laboratories are simply unnecessary. Most universities now use a combination of computer programs and sophisticated human simulators. These options have many educational benefits over live animals, the most important being the student’s ability to repeat the procedures as many times as necessary to master a task.
"Medical students learn at different rates,” said John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., a PCRM cardiologist. “Of the five students working on that dog, some will get it and some won't. And those who don't need to repeat the lesson over and over again. The dog lab doesn't give them that opportunity.”
The sources from which many schools receive dogs for live animal labs are also a cause for concern. MCW buys dogs from a Random Source Class B Animal Dealer. Many Class B dealers purchase dogs from random sources, such as flea markets or newspaper ads, and then resell them to research facilities, veterinary schools, or medical schools. USDA records show that MCW’s dog dealer has had problems with sick animals and substandard housing conditions.